Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Chelsea Briggs
Chelsea Briggs


Parents: Raymond Briggs and Tia Takae Briggs

High School: Kapolei High School, 2016

College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu, bachelor’s degree in political science and business administration – finance, anticipated graduation in 2020.

Occupation: Student, AVID tutor and college math peer academic leader.

What or Who Inspires You?

“All my life I have looked up to the person who showed me the meaning of passion, dedication and selflessness. Growing up, I watched the passion my father had when he worked hard to make my family happy. He displayed dedication in his work ethic and his perseverance to get the job done when other relied on him greatly. In all the actions my father took throughout his life, he never ceased to put others before himself. As I remember my father and live on his legacy, I aspire to share my life with others as he did. I live my life with passion by helping my mother and being a positive role model to my little brother and sister. I am also inspired to be dedicated to opening my heart to others so I can leave a positive impact on all the individuals I cross paths with.”

Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Melanie Carrie
Melanie Carrie


Parents: Denyse and Michel Carrié

High School: Western Academy of Beijing, China, 2012

College/Degree: University of Edinburgh, Scotland, bachelor’s degree with merit in politics and social anthropology, 2016

Occupation: Realtor-Associate and Broker’s Transaction Manager at Vesta Hawaii Real Estate

Who or what inspires you?

“I am inspired by the idea that obstacles are stepping stones towards the future we desire. In believing the storm will pass, we turn struggle into strength, and we are who we are because of such experiences.

Being bullied inspired me to protect others from similar pain; I became a kickboxing instructor, aspiring to instill confidence and empower. A broken heart revived my love for writing — something that has since connected me with individuals from all walks of life. My grandfather’s passing inspired me to join this festival, because I wanted to learn more about his past and our heritage.

This virtue of perseverance inspires me, not for the ‘hardship’ itself, but because it is more than a singular problem with a linear solution. It is an ever-changing part of existence that leads us towards discovery. Like the sakura that blossoms in winter; to thrive, we must endure.”

Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Kaydi Hashima
Kaydi Hashima


Parents: Art and Sachi Hashima

High School: Gabrielino High School (Calif.), 2012

College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor’s degree in elementary education, 2016.

Occupation: Teacher

Who or what inspires you?

“My grandparents are my inspiration. During WWII, they endured unbearable hardships, whether in Japan hiding from air raids in tunnels, or in America, incarcerated in Manzanar. My generation can hardly imagine losing their possessions or living every moment fearful of whether they would live to see another day. When life threw curveballs, my grandparents endured; never giving up hope that their present afflictions would eventually pass, and that they would be stronger for having persevered through it. Despite such unfair lives, they were never bitter, reminding me the importance of living a life of forgiveness, humility, and kindness. There is a lot to be learned from earlier generations who worked tirelessly for future generations in the spirit of kodomo no tame ni. I am indebted to my grandparents not only for the life they have given me, but also for remaining a constant source of inspiration to overcome any adversity.”

Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Kylie Hisatake
Kylie Hisatake


Parents: Calvin and Jill Hisatake

High School: Henry J. Kaiser High School, 2014

College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education; anticipated graduation 2018.

Occupation: Full-time student, part-time teacher’s aide at Happy Keiki Preschool.

Who or what inspires you?

“Education is an incredibly social career; you learn-to-teach from people and teach-to-learn from people.  Therefore, as a future educator, I am inspired by people. People who embody the traits that I value and hope to possess as well.  Traits such as kindness, selflessness, diligence, and passion.  Whether it’s the two-year-old who shares his toy with a friend or the professor who incites a love for teaching in their students, these individuals inspire me.  They inspire me to become a better student, educator, citizen, friend, and family member.  These individuals inspire me to become a better person.”

Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Renni Fay Iwasa
Renni Fay Iwasa


Parents: Susan Iwasa and the late James Iwasa

High School: Mililani High School, 2008

College/Degree: Oregon State University, bachelor’s degree in human development and family sciences, minor in health management and policy, certificate in gerontology, 2012; University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, master’s degree in social work with a concentration in gerontology, 2014

Occupation: Licensed social worker, coordinator of Hospice volunteers and nurses aides.

What or who inspires you?

“The person who inspires me is my father. Though we lost him too early, the memory I hold of him in my heart, encourages and pushes me to be to be a selfless individual. To work hard and to put others before myself as he always did. He left big shoes to fill and I can only hope to make him proud of the women I am today.”


Parents: Jo and Gary Kanehiro

High School: Kailua High School, 2008
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in teaching, 2012
Occupation: 9th grade social studies teacher

What or who inspires you?

“There are many people and events that have inspired me directly and indirectly. Two people that have and continue to inspire me are my parents. My mom was an educator for 36 years. Her diligence and her ‘Aloha’ for her students would inspire me to continue to work hard on my studies and to follow into her footsteps of becoming an educator. My dad inspires me because he teaches me life lessons that he learned from his past and present, good and bad. He is one of the most compassionate people I have ever met, which I try my best to emulate. Finally, my students inspire me. Even though some of them have gone through insane struggles in their short teenage lives, knowing that they continue to try their best motivates me to do right by them by being the best educator and person that I can be.”

Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Colette Masunaga
Colette Masunaga


Parents: Gail and Margaret Masunaga

High School: Konawaena High School (Big Island), 2009

College/Degree: University of California – Davis, bachelor’s degree in international relations, minor in Asian American studies, 2013.

Occupation: Legislative Analyst

What or who inspires you?

“Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American to reach space, believed that through education and imagination, we could do and achieve anything. His service to country and community is what inspired me to pursue my dreams in Washington, D.C. and into public service under the Obama Administration and in Congress. Just like him, I grew up on a coffee farm in Kona, attended the same church and public school, and had dreams to better myself, my community, and make every moment count. As I continue to grow, every experience has been a learning opportunity to build upon who I am as a person. Ellison Onizuka’s memory continues to inspire me to persevere, work hard, and have the confidence to not limit myself, but rather imagine all the possibilities that I can achieve.”

Photo of 66th Cherry Blossom Festival Contestant, Shelby Meador
Shelby Meador


Parents: Shawn and Roxanne Meador

High School: ‘Iolani School, 2011

College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, Doctor of Pharmacy, bachelor’s degree in pharmacy studies, anticipated in 2018.

Occupation: Student

What or who inspires you?

“My parents, Shawn and Roxanne, are my biggest inspirations. Their selflessness and love have provided my brother and I with more than we could ask for and imagine. They pushed themselves, persevered, and overcame life’a obstacles to be able to provide an amazing life for our family. My parents have inspired me to always dream big, strive for the best, and reach my highest potential. They have taught me that life isn’t always easy, but by working hard, giving my all, and never giving up, I can succeed. I am accomplishing my dream of becoming a pharmacist because of them and the lessons they have instilled in me. These qualities and lessons are what I carry with me every day as my inspiration and reminder, and I hope I can inspire others to dream big and strive for their goals and dreams.”


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